Opening Up About My Struggles with Mental Health

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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If you have found yourself standing in a warm shower as tears stream down your face, you are not alone. It is no secret that living with a rare disease like pulmonary hypertension affects one’s mental health. Although I have touched on this topic before, I want to devote this week’s column to mental health awareness.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One reason this is important is that too often, mental health has a stigma around it. Until recently, those of us with mental illnesses were treated with shame and not taken seriously. I know that when I was growing up, I never heard anyone talk about anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety is no fun

Because I have had PH for 15 years, I have many PHriends who have multiple mental illnesses related to PH and coexisting conditions. I am grateful, or so I thought, that I mostly struggle only with anxiety. It’s not that having anxiety is fun, but when compared with what others go through, it could be worse.

For me, anxiety may occur when I am experiencing a “bad PH day” and am struggling to breathe. I can’t seem to catch my breath. Chest pain or tightness begins, and it becomes a vicious cycle. It’s incredibly frightening when I feel like I can’t get another breath in.

Last year, I started seeing a therapist. I believed at the time that she would tell me I didn’t need therapy, but she told me the opposite. During our sessions, she explains that I am coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was shocked about this and initially disagreed with her, but have since come around to understanding her viewpoint.

PTSD is not only for soldiers

Her explaining how my many hospitalizations would be considered traumatic experiences prompted several thought-provoking questions. As we continue to revisit these difficult events to the best of my memory, I now understand that they were traumatic for me. I used to think of PTSD in the context of soldiers returning home after a war. But as my therapist explains the broad context of PTSD, I understand now that I struggle with it.

Because of PTSD, when I am heading to an appointment at my PH clinic, which is located across the street from the hospital where my trauma occurred, my heart starts racing and I can feel up to my ears. My palms become clammy. If you ask my husband, he’ll probably say that I become” feisty.” But now I understand why going there increases my anxiety.

Let’s talk about it

Learning to talk about my emotions and not shutting them off is helpful. I continue to attend therapy, although virtually at this time. I’ve found music therapy to be cathartic. Breathing exercises, meditation, and adapted yoga also can be beneficial.

What about you? What coping mechanisms have you found helpful?

As we spread awareness this month about mental health, remember that you are not alone. Dealing with a mental illness is nothing to feel ashamed about. Talking about our struggles with mental health will help others open up, too.

This pandemic has prompted an increased awareness about our mental health. If you need help, reach out to someone. If a loved one suffers from mental health issues, listen to them and take them seriously.

For more information about promoting mental health, visit the organization Mental Health America. Another resource I’ve found valuable is the National Alliance of Mental Illness, which promotes awareness and education throughout the year. 


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Daniel Anthony avatar

Daniel Anthony

Thank you for the awesome articles you put out for all to see, I really do appreciate your efforts to help and educate. it is really important that we raise so much public awareness and help people in any little way we can.

For me, the coping mechanism I found really helpful came after my music therapist introduced me to the SOlfeggio frequencies and 432Hz music. The music frequency is so liberating and sets my mental, physical and emotional health at balance. I keep the sound playing all day on my PC, lol, don't blame me for that.

You can look up the Solfeggio and 432Hz frequencies on google or you check here:

You'll love it, it is so calming and relaxing, helps me deal with my anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Music therapy is the perfect coping mechanism for me.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thank you, Daniel, for your kind words and support. It is funny that you mention using music therapy. I wrote about how music helps me in a column several weeks ago. Feel free to check it out, too.

Finding coping mechanisms that work for you is crucial. We all need that outlet. Thanks for sharing this music site. I have saved it to look at again time permitting.

Thanks for reading.

Kind regards,

Ruby Midkiff avatar

Ruby Midkiff

Thank you. I have anxiety and depression and see a therapist and a psychiatrist manages my meds. Being quarantined for 9 weeks is not helping. Bible studies, prayer, coloring and reading Christian mysteries help me. What kind of adaptive yoga are you using?

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Ruby Nan,
Thanks for always showing such tremendous support. I appreciate that you not only read my columns but share them, too.

I certainly understand how this quarantine is not helping. It can take a significant toll on our mental health, even with the coping mechanisms that we use. I am grateful that you, too, use prayer and devotion. I start my days with that. Lately, I have found that I need to go back and reread it throughout the day. Do you find this, too?

I use a YouTube series, Yoga with Adrienne, and I only do her stretching and beginner ones. With the poses that I cannot do, I do more stretching and breathing exercises. I know that I had one specifically for PH patients, once I find it again, I will share that one, too.

Hugs and prayers,

Perveen Kumar avatar

Perveen Kumar

Thanks for share your experience. I am also trying yoga but very difficult for me to also help me.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thank you, Perveen.
I am happy to hear that my writing offers you some benefits. Yoga stretches, deep breathing, and music play a huge role in my life.

Kind regards,


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